Game of Thrones 5.09: “The Dance of Dragons”

"Sorry Daenerys, there’s only room for you." / Photo: HBO

During the last two weeks of Game of Thrones, the true players have emerged. No, it’s not the Tyrells, or the Lannisters, or even Littlefinger. George R.R. Martin’s series has always been a song of ice and fire. Last week, we glimpsed the true terror of ice in the massacre orchestrated by the White Walkers, and last night, it was fire that consumed us. For a show ripe with horrible moments, no scene has ever been more awful than last night’s burning of Shireen (Kerry Ingram). But the fire didn’t stop there. In Meereen, just when yet another massacre seemed moments away, it was the wayward Drogon who swooped in to save the day at the last possible moment.

Just like that, the true players have made themselves known. Though the White Walkers and Daenerys's (Emilia Clarke) dragons are currently worlds away, they’re moving towards total war. And unfortunately for everyone in between, whether burned or frozen, their days are numbered, but after watching more and more appalling events accrue each week, it’s easy to wonder if erasing the majority of mankind might actually make Westeros a better place.

Riser of the Week: Doran Martell

"I believe in second chances. I don’t believe in third." / Photo: HBO

So far this season, Doran Martell (Alexander Siddig) has felt more like a high school teacher forced to supervise detention than a leader of one of Westeros’s great houses. Like all things bad this season, I blame the Sand Snakes. Luckily for us, Doran unsheathed his proverbial sword this week and went straight for the jugular. Like Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) told Hizdahr zo Loraq (Joel Fry) right before the Great Games kicked off, Doran has had too much death for his liking, and he’ll do whatever it takes to keep his people from the grave, even if it means letting both Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bronn (Jerome Flynn) return to King’s Landing with Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) and Trystane (Toby Sebastian) in tow. This political move benefits the Martells immensely. Trystane, Doran's son and heir, will now sit on the small council, ensuring the Dorne’s concerns are continually addressed at court, and by returning Myrcella, the Martells remain an ally of the crown. And most importantly, should Tommen meet his demise (kings do have a tendency to drop like flies), Myrcella would inherit the throne, and Trystane alongside her. I have a feeling this won’t be the last of Doran’s scheming; I just hope he leaves the Sand Snakes out of his next plan.

Honorable Mention: Daenerys, for finally earning the Earth Badge, and getting Drogon to obey.

Faller of the Week: The Baratheons

You’ll never recover from this. / Photo: Helen Sloan, HBO

When House Castamere was erased from Westeros, it was at the hands of Tywin Lannister, but when we look back and identify why the Baratheons are gone, it will be because of their own short-sighted stupidity. First, there was the Usurper, Robert, who fought to take the throne from the Targaryens, only to immediately cash it in for a never-ending supply of wine and whores, and in the process, he never produced a legitimate heir. Then there was Renly, whose vanity led him to unlawfully fight for the throne after Robert's death, despite the fact that Stannis was the older, and thus legitimate, successor. And finally, we have Stannis (Stephen Dillane), who not only sold his soul to R’hllor, but in doing so killed both his brother and his only daughter.

I’m aware that this series is filled with morally gray characters, and choosing to support one of them means supporting someone who has done some questionable things. After all, I’m a Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) fan. But I have to draw the line at not only burning your young daughter, but also not having the courage to look her in the face while you do so. I’m done with you, Stannis. And after last night, it’s only a matter of time until the Baratheon’s meet the same fate as those storied Castameres. There’s only one difference: in your case, there’s no one to blame but yourself. And no one will care about your song.

Honorable Mention: Hizdahr zo Loraq, who despite his shadiness, seemed to genuinely be looking out for Daenerys right up until the Sons of the Harpy got him.

Backstory of the Week: Meryn Trant

This turd has been around for too long. / Photo: HBO

Meryn Trant (Ian Beattie) has been around since the show's beginning, and in that time, he’s committed some horrendous acts. In Season 1, Trant is sent to apprehend Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) in order to force Ned to cooperate with the Lannisters. Arya, who is in the middle of a sword-fighting lesson with Syrio Forel, is able to escape while Syrio fends off Trant. Later, we see Trant in the throne room, and it’s assumed that he killed Syrio. This is why Meryn Trant is one of the names in Arya’s death prayer, and it's why she’s caught off guard seeing him in Braavos. Also in Season 1, after Ned’s beheading, it’s Trant who is present when Joffrey forces Sansa (Sophie Turner) to gaze upon her father’s head on a spike. When Sansa refuses to look, Joffrey orders Trant to hit her, which he does without question. He hits her again in Season 2 when Joffrey blames Sansa for Robb Stark’s victory over the Lannister army. Trant punches Sansa in the stomach, smacks her with the flat side of his sword, and rips her dress off. It’s only after Tyrion interrupts the beating that Trant stops, and he does so angrily. This makes Trant's fondness of young girls that much more disgusting.

So here’s to Arya Stark, and to hoping she can cross another name off her list soon.

Item of the Week: Davos’s Wooden Stag

It’s going to get ugly when Davos finds out what happened. / Photo: Helen Sloan, HBO

Stannis sent Davos (Liam Cunningham) back to the Wall under the guise of needing more food and supplies, but he knew that there was no way the Onion Knight would ever allow Shireen to be sacrificed – Davos freed Gendry from the same fate two seasons ago, and he barely knew him. How do you think he’d react to this? I said just before that Game of Thrones is filled exclusively with morally gray characters, but Davos might be the lone exception. It should be interesting to see how Davos reacts when he learns of what happened to Shireen, and I’ll bet that Stannis will suddenly find himself without both his daughter and his Hand.

Maester’s Musings:

  • Just because you ultimately realized how terrible of an idea burning your daughter was, it doesn’t mean you’re excused from the blame, Selyse (Tara Fitzgerald). You’ve been a distant mother from day one, and just like Stannis, I hope you don’t make it past Winterfell.
  • Bronn, I sincerely feared for you this season. Looks like you’ll get to keep singing, killing, and most importantly, living.
  • Mace Tyrell (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) continues to come off as a buffoon, but I think it’s all a planned ruse. It always helps to be underestimated.
  • Seeing Daenerys fly off on the back of Drogon was a scene five years in the making, and while it was awesome (questionable green-screening notwithstanding), I couldn’t help but think of all of her friends who she just left alone surrounded by murderous terrorists.
  • I've always been lukewarm towards Daario (Michiel Huisman), but he stood out in all the right ways during the scene at the pit. Will he be able to put his differences aside and work with Jorah (Iain Glen) and Tyrion, now that Daenerys is gone?
  • I'm starting to think Ramsay (Iwan Rheon), not Stannis, is the master military tactician.

Joe Brosnan is an editor and writer for Criminal Element. He’s a New York Giants fan, a Petyr Baelish supporter, and is only now realizing how weird it is to write in the third person. You can follow him on Twitter @joebro33.

Read all of Joe Brosnan’s posts for Criminal Element.

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